Rendered Into Oblivion…
Cleopatra (69 BC – August, 30 BC) has been popularly known as the Queen of ancient Egypt with an outstanding beauty. However, there have been other Queens who had ruled Egypt as representatives of the Pharaoh (or God) long before Cleopatra, the Queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty! Among them, arguably the most beautiful, wise, and politically efficient was Queen Hatshepsut (1507 BC – 1458 BC).
Hatshepsut was the fifth Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt and the second historically-confirmed female Pharaoh, the first being Sobekneferu. Her father, Thutmose I, too, was a popular ruler, as he established the Thebes town and built many temples, apart from constructing statues of the Ennead at Abydos, buildings at Armant, Ombos, el-Hiba, Memphis and Edfu. Perhaps, his greatest projects were two gates and a hall at the Temple of Karnak under the supervision of noted architect Ineni. Thutmose I not only built a tomb for himself in the Valley of the Kings, but also became the first king who was definitely buried there.
Thutmose I used to consider his daughter Hatshepsut more fit for the throne than his son and future heir Thutmose II. So, he taught his daughter how to rule a state. Hatshepsut married her step-brother Thutmose II, who was the son of Thutmose I and his secondary wife, Mutnofret. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, named Neferure. After having their daughter, Hatshepsut could not bear any more children. Thutmose II with Iset, a secondary wife, would father Thutmose III, who would succeed Hatshepsut as Pharaoh.
When Thutmose II died at an early age, his son Thutmose III was a minor. So, Hatshepsut became the Queen. Her father had already declared Hatshepsut as the Daughter of Amun-Ra (The Sun God), making it easier for her to succeed him. After taking charge, she concentrated mainly on foreign trade. As per an ancient artwork painted on the wall, Hatshepsut oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt. The trading expedition to Punt took place roughly in the ninth year of her reign. It set out in her name with five ships, each measuring 70ft-long, bearing several sails and accommodating 210 men, including sailors and 30 rowers…
Statue of Hatshepsut on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The Queen brought a number of trade items in Punt, notably frankincense and myrrh. Hatshepsut’s delegation returned from Punt, bearing 31 live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage. It was the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees. According to historians, Hatshepsut planted these trees in the courts of her mortuary temple complex. Egyptians also returned with a number of other gifts from Punt, among which was frankincense. Historians are still not sure about the exact location of Punt… some believe that it is the modern day Somalia!
Although Hatshepsut was a beautiful lady, she used to perform her duties as a Queen wearing fake beards, as per the then custom. Hatshepsut, one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt, reportedly commissioned hundreds of construction projects both in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. She had monuments constructed at the Temple of Karnak, apart from restoring the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient Great Goddess of Egypt, at Karnak. However, it had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. She further had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, installed at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on the Earth, while the other has broken in two and toppled. Following the contemporary tradition, she built her own mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri. Designed by Senemut, her vizier was the first complex built on the site she chose that would become the Valley of the Kings.
Djeser-Djeseru is the main building of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri
Unfortunately, the Queen’s stepson Thutmose III could not accept her fame and popularity! After the Queen’s demise in 1458 BC, Thutmose III became the King at the age of 25. Although he used to hate his stepmother, Thutmose III was an efficient ruler. He successfully expanded the territory of Egypt. That’s why, many historians have described him as ‘Thutmose the Great‘! However, he was responsible for the disappearance of his mother’s tomb and mummy. Perhaps, history will never forgive him for removing Hatshepsut from certain historical and pharaonic records. Her cartouches and images were chiseled off some stone walls, leaving very obvious Hatshepsut-shaped gaps in the artwork…
Except a magnificent tomb and an obelisk at the Karnak Temple, Queen Hatshepsut has no memorabilia. In 1903, Howard Carter had discovered a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb contained two female mummies, one identified as Hatshepsut’s wetnurse, and the other unidentified. In 2007, Dr Zahi Hawass removed the unidentified body from the tomb and brought it to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum for testing. This mummy was missing a tooth, and the space in the jaw perfectly matched Hatshepsut’s existing molar. Her death has since been attributed to a carcinogenic skin lotion found in possession of the Pharaoh, which led to her having bone cancer.
This is what we owe to history…
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